Gasoline prices (search) are at an all-time high. I filled up last week and it cost me fifty-one dollars. Some years ago I found a box of old gas receipts. A fill-up in the mid 1960s cost me three dollars.
Things have been far worse in America. During World War II, gasoline and just about everything else were rationed. People did without and they managed on a lot less. Then, people were more important than things and we knew our neighbors who lived in apartments or homes with plaster walls, not wallboard. There was a feeling of permanency as most families stuck together and stuck it out.
Today's consumer culture expects cheap prices allowing us to buy more and more stuff. But the law of supply and demand says you can't expect low gas prices when the U.S. has five percent of the world's population, yet consumes 25 percent of the available oil.
We consume too much and that's the problem. We have confused needs with wants. Whatever delights our eyes we think is a necessity.
Have you seen the commercial with the guy who owns a big house with a pool, a new car and says while driving his lawnmower: "How do I afford all this? I'm in debt up to eyeballs. Somebody please help me."
What would happen if Americans had to really sacrifice, as they have not done since the 1940s? Could we do it? I'm not sure.
Prosperity is now considered an entitlement. For many, it has been more of a curse than a blessing. We have gained the whole world, but we have lost our souls. Our false god is the golden calf called the Dow Jones Industrial Average (search). In Dow we trust.
Suck it up, America. If you can't afford the gas, drive less, get a hybrid, ride a bike on short trips, combine tasks on the same trip, take public transportation.
As for the politicians, they should open sources for new oil and at the same time begin a crash program to wean us from Middle East oil. If they won't, maybe they can be made to feel the heat when gas hits five dollars a gallon.
And that's Column One.
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Cal Thomas is America's most widely syndicated op-ed columnist. He joined Fox News Channel in 1997 as a political contributor. His latest book is "What Works: Common Sense Solutions for a Stronger America" is available in bookstores now. Readers may email Cal Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org.